This rough drawing shows what could be done with the extra space if Haddon Avenue was narrowed and remained one-way. It doesn’t show what the street would look like if it were two-way. The drawing shows two scenarios with features that use the land reclaimed from asphalt: the first shows a cycle track. A speed limit sign says “neighborhood speed limit” (a number is left off so residents decide what speed is appropriate for their street). The second scenario has a rain garden in the land reclaimed from asphalt, to help with stormwater management. Both scenarios have permeable pavers in the parking lanes.
The first-ever Chicago Pedestrian Plan will be introducing a lot of new concepts and ideas to Chicagoans (and even this transportation planner) about how to make the pedestrian experience safer, more comfortable, as well as more enjoyable. This post will be one of the occasional articles on strategies in the Pedestrian Plan.
Tool: Skinny streets, page 29
What it says: “After the severe winters of 1978 and 1979, many of Chicago’s streets were converted from two-way to one-way to improve mobility during the winter and to allow plows to go through. However, two-way streets have many advantages over one-way streets. These ‘skinny streets’ reduce vehicle speeds and can also increase connectivity for all users by providing more ways to traverse the city’s grid. Skinny streets should be considered on all one-way streets that are wider than 30 feet.”
Haddon Avenue from Western Avenue to California Avenue in the Humboldt Park neighborhood is a prime candidate for conversion. I asked Joshua and Carolyn Koonce, who live in this stretch about their street, to tell me more about the conditions there. Before being repaved, you could see the yellow center line that indicated it used to be a two-way street.
Speed is the main concern. The width of the street and the low speed-humps make anything resembling “neighborhood” speed rare. Drivers build up speed coming from Western, headed to California, often disregarding stop signs as well. If there was a speed camera here we wouldn’t be surprised if drivers routinely hit 40+ mph. The road becomes an easy, fast westbound alternate to Division.
The street is regularly used as a two-way street already by the Chicago Police. Sure, they can pretty much drive against traffic anywhere they like, but it’s really prevalent here, not to mention disconcerting when you’re crossing the street or biking. Are they doing this to catch people unawares? Is it a policing technique? We’re not really sure.
The width of the street is just outrageous. Three cars could fit side by side between the parking lanes. In other words: a car could double park on each side and you could still drive here. That’s not right for a neighborhood street! We’d love to see linear gardens, or bioswales or a home-zone style project like the one on Albany Avenue in Logan Square (between Kedzie Avenue and Fullerton Avenue). That’s dreaming big, of course. But the simplest solution might just be to make the street a two-way, naturally slowing down traffic in both directions. We’d take that too.
When we walk the dog over on Thomas, we marvel at how calm and beautiful it is. One street over and the change is absolutely remarkable. We keep an eye out for apartments for rent over there.
A view west down Haddon Avenue.
View a Google Street View of a typical block in this stretch, which is 38 feet wide.
As far as skinny streets go, I live on a skinny street, Fletcher Avenue between California Avenue and Sacramento Avenue. It’s a narrow one-way street. I think this strategy should also include narrowing existing streets and swapping space for wider sidewalks or more room for trees.
Grid Chicago is a blog about sustainable transportation matters, projects and culture in Chicago and Illinois, by John Greenfield and Steven Vance since June 2011.
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